Obligatory theoretical physics thought
There is a difference – vast actually – between having preconceptions about how physics should work and applying some new mathematical fad to it; and, on the other hand, having some mathematics and following it in hopes it has fuck all to do with reality, doing your best to ignore all preconceptions. One of those paths is pure. (That’s what I tried to do. Succeeded nicely, but, you know, attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, and all that.)
Or, alternatively, you could partake in an effort to make QFT mathematically rigorous, or something equally monkish and onanistic. For sure the universe is craving that. But let’s move on to anime.
This is for those who believe all anime not stemming from Studio Ghibli consists of angstvoll youngsters with big eyes and bigger swords battling the forces of darkness while screaming. Indeed, there’s a lot of that, and some isn’t half bad, but then there’s Girls’ Last Tour, about which I’ve written before, and Made in Abyss, which I’ve almost certainly mentioned in the past. But now we’re going to do a deep dive, and if you have uninformed preconceptions (unrelated to theoretical physics), then I hope to rend them into tiny pieces, and take those pieces and subject them to searing heat, rendering the rent whole into plasma which will congeal into something unrecognizable, unless you’re familiar with Venetian gondolas; it may remind you of one of those. So, my plan is to rewatch the series and describe stuff.
Change of plans
So, yeah, no. In the meantime my psyche has become more fragile. Not flower-like, but maybe akin to a sand castle made near the water line at low tide.
The thing is, the artwork in the anime is as good as any I’ve ever seen, including Ghibli. The heroes of the story (Made in Abyss) – as far as I’ve gone – are a girl, a boy (who is actually at least mostly a robot), and another girl (who is part rabbit). She was not born like that, but … just wait. All these children are around 12, hovering on the edge of puberty.
Now, the age of 10 is my ideal age, and I often think that when I surpassed that age my spirit clung on to 10 like a limpet, and it would not let go. It’s the perfect age. Far enough from puberty that its echoes are faint, but old enough to recognize that the world, in the hands of a 10 year old, can be a really fun place, if the environment in which you live does not make soul-crushing demands. So, yeah, … crikey. But the point is, the kids in Made in Abyss are close enough to that age that … You know, I still read the occasional bit of YA literature. Quelle surprise, right?
Where were we? Cute kids; adventurous; all somewhat mysterious; big cute anime eyes, living in a place that oh-my-gods-is-that-ever-hyper-super-mega-cool! You see, it’s a very large city built in a circle that is some kilometers in diameter. The city has no structures inside the circle, because there’s nothing upon which to build them there. There is a hole. And not a dank hole, nor even a hobbit hole, but an entire ecosystem of levels going down down down – no one knows how far, because those that go past some point never come back, although sometimes they send balloons up. And you’re likely wondering, if they can send balloons up, why not themselves in bigger balloons. Just wait.
So, the Abyss is full of plants and animals, many of which – especially the animals – are not found on the surface. It should be added that this Abyss is full of structure: places you can walk and explore and even – should you be so inclined – build a home. There is weather: clouds and such like. And it is also full of relics, and many surface people go down a short ways into the Abyss daily in search of same, for they are sometimes powerful. And all are valuable.
And there I am, when first watching the first two or three episodes of season 1, so thoroughly enthralled by kids like me – just a tad older – exploring an enormous, gigantic, tremendous and mysterious Abyss, even the existence of which is a tremendous mystery … golly. It had just about everything I find most addictive in fiction, or nonfiction (I’ve entered a few enormous caverns in the past; they enthrall me). But this is way way way beyond caverns.
After season 1 of the show, a film was made to continue the story: Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul. I plan(ned) to get it as soon as available in the States. And I still want it, but no longer with bounce up and down in your chair eagerness. Why the hesitation?
You see, the Abyss looks paradisiacal, but those looks are somewhat deceiving. Some who go into the Abyss get eaten, by large flying snake-wormy things, or spiders (big ones), or this large elegant bird-like thing that while feeding on some hapless child – as witnessed by our heroes – will imitate the voice of that child in a call for help to lure others to feast upon. The artwork at this point is still stunning, but whoa. What the fuck? This is all unsettling. And we haven’t even met the bunny girl yet, and her best friend. Just wait.
So initially it’s just our primary girl heroine, and she discovers the robot boy, who is an extremely powerful relic (maybe; he is extremely powerful, but I’m not sure he’s a relic). He has extendable robot arms, and can emit a beam from his palm that can vaporize (almost?) anything, but conks him out for some time after to allow regeneration. Our heroine’s life is saved early on by this beam, and that is how they meet.
But the biggest danger of the Abyss is in exiting it. Even if you had an elevator, this could ruin your day. It’s kind of like the bends on steroids. Ascend too rapidly and you start vomiting, and your eyes bleed. And if you go beyond a certain depth and then ascend too rapidly, your DNA gets altered. And it’s excruciating. An accumulation of such environmental maleficence overcame our heroine at one point, and robo-boy, overcome with grief and fear, began crying and wailing in a deeply chilling way.
Bunny girl was bunny girl because her DNA had been restructured, but not because she ascended too quickly. Nay nay. A character who dominates the film sequel had captured bunny girl and her best friend, and performed an experiment on them. I suppose this experiment simulated a rapid ascent – you know, it’s been a while since I watched season 1. The bunny girl got bunnified – a kind of cute result, and I guess she became immune to further changes. I’m not sure. But her best friend in the whole world was turned into a living gelatinous mass with eyes and a sort of mouth. During the transformation process – awful to watch – before she lost the ability to speak, she looks at her friend and begs, “Please kill me.” Pretty horrific, actually.
When our two heroes first encounter bunny girl, she takes them to her home – a really cool eco-friendly sphere – where they meet gelatinous girl. But here’s the thing. Bunny girl made this home to be a place where she could care for her best friend, but bunny girl is mortal. She will die someday, but by some perverse Abyss logic, her friend will not. Gelatinous girl is immortal, and almost impossible to kill by ordinary homicidal means. And this fact hovers over bunny girl like a cauldron of molten awfulness, for when she is gone, gelatinous girl – bunny girl’s bestest friend in the whole world – will spend eternity alone, and … the mind boggles.
Anyway, long story short, bunny girl convinces our heroine and robo-boy that this situation is horrifically untenable, and the solution is to have robo-boy vaporize her best friend with his beam. This done, bunny girl experiences profoundly deep grief, and she wails in a manner that was far too like the sound of real grief. Ma femme freaked at the sound, which resonated with her grief when her mother passed, and could watch no more.
The killing of gelatinous girl was necessary, and even wanted by gelatinous girl herself. Everyone recognized this, and after some time our heroine and robo-boy need to carry on their journey. Bunny girl, having nothing but memories of heartbreak in her home, and no further obligations, decides to leave it and travel with our duo as they descend ever deeper into the Abyss. The goal is to find our heroine’s mother, who descended very very deep some years before.
So, now we have this hyper-cute trio exploring the depths of this awesome mystery, and it’s all fun and … But fucking hell? Does anyone even remember the unceasingly traumatic journey that got them to this point?!
So, season 1 ends with the cuteness trio traipsing down into the Abyss, and everything looks great; the artwork is still stunning; the mysteries no less compelling; which is just as well, as my PTSD couldn’t take much more at the time.
Meanwhile, having become aware that there was a film that followed the story from the end of season 1, I began googling like crazy, and failed to determine when it would be available over here. Very frustrating and all, but my googling eventually led me to uncover some plot points of the film, and that the film revolves around the character who did the experiment that resulted in bunny girl and gelatinous girl. I read some comments by some lucky viewers. The gist of these is that the film is even more traumatic than the series. What? Upon discovering that I immediately became a lot more patient. I’ll see it when I see it, and if I die first, well, I can live with that.
And if by some miracle of inanity you’re still thinking this is a kid-friendly chunk of entertainment, let me just add that robo-boy can – and does at one point at least – get an erection. Maybe the Japanese are more ok with this than your typical red or blue state American. I’m neither red nor blue, and, so, anyway.
I think in my next blog, as an antidote to this disturbing and unnecessary pile of mind seepage, I’ll discuss my favorite Jean Paul Belmondo film. But I needed to discuss Made in Abyss, a stunning work of anime, and by far the most nontrivial I’ve ever watched. Maybe it’s just me.